“The moon had been observing the earth close-up longer than anyone. It must have witnessed all of the phenomena occurring – and all of the acts carried out – on this earth. But the moon remained silent; it told no stories. All it did was embrace the heavy past with a cool, measured detachment. On the moon there was neither air nor wind. Its vacuum was perfect for preserving memories unscathed. No one could unlock the heart of the moon. Aomame raised her glass to the moon and asked, “Have you gone to bed with someone in your arms lately?”
The moon did not answer.
“Do you have any friends?” she asked.
The moon did not answer.
“Don’t you get tired of always playing it cool?”
The moon did not answer.”

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

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Today: a new distance PR for Long Run Sunday of 17.12 miles. Finished by the light of the moon. The mind in its blissful void turns everything over at a distance, just as my legs turn over and over. After awhile, there is no sense of discomfort. There remains just the place in the mind where colors, sounds, smells, and memories are keenly interesting and vital, though nothing sticks for too long. It is the place where I observe my own body, my own mind. What a funny creature. The void is limitless potential, a womb of creativity. Senses merge, almost synesthesially: the color of the sunset becomes the pulse in my quads. The rhythm of my breath is wind. Worlds, or perhaps just more dimensions of this world, seem to lay themselves bare. There is pain, until there isn’t. And then the rushing sensation that these thoughts could carry a person forever over any terrain…

As I sit sipping my jasmine tea, this feathery tickle in my chest finally seems to be losing its fight. I spent a few days febrile but missed only my intervals and managed to claim my weekly 40 miles by Friday afternoon. The craziest stunt I pulled this week was swiggin’ a dose of ibuprofen at a 100.6 degree temperature on Wednesday and making up the two swimming miles I had lost on Monday (by choice, as I was in Newport) and Tuesday (by force, as the pool had flooded). My dad came and watched the kids, and I let the cool water caress my warm cheeks for 120 lengths. I am at slightly over 17 miles of pool laps for January, so I am on pace to meet my New Year’s goal of 100 miles this year. I am building padding so that I don’t fall behind on taper weeks or times when I am traveling.

In the end, it wasn’t even this respiratory ailment that wrecked me this week.

It’s a book. A book has turned me inside out this week. It’s been awhile—perhaps never—that a novel has so utterly laid me out. When I started Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 last weekend, I knew I would never finish it in time for my January reading list…at almost 1000 pages. I was right, but just. I finished it last night at twenty-past-midnight. I stayed up too late. Between my reading hangover and my drippy nose, I didn’t feel quite good today until the first three miles of my run.

1Q84 has changed me, forever. The thin membranes of the mind that separate a reader from an author and from characters and from real and fictional worlds have been so carefully permeated that I am sure these words and characters shall stay with me forever. To say I become involved with this work of fiction would be to speak in understatement. 1Q84 is one of the top five books in my life that has pushed me intellectually. It is lodged now right in my core.

I told Katie a little bit about the plot and signifiers when I was about 80% of the way through. “So,” she intuited, “it sounds like it’s a book about making art.”

Yes, indeed. And about the triumph of love over dystopian elements.

Japanese and Kafka-esque novelist Murakami is also a distance runner, and I read his running memoir last month after my friend Steve brought it over during a Spartan weekend. This is significant primarily because I think this is the kind of fiction that may well spring from the mind of a man who runs and runs and runs and knows the void. He runs at least one marathon a year and is a triathlete as well.

If there is only one piece of fiction ever to read, it might well be this novel here. My innards are still splayed out as I try to figure out, “How did he so artfully construct the rules of this world—these multiple worlds, in fact—such that within those parameters I as a reader was able to accept some of the more implausible moments?” If one starts looking at the words and structure as a sort of code, it is intellectual fodder for days. The fact is, his fictional worlds begin—through literary analysis—to seep over into this one. If this is a book about self, identity, conceptual/shadow selves, reading, authorship, and words themselves then, in fact, it can’t not permeate this world. AHHHH!

I can’t even stand how much I love this book. One febrile night, I tossed and turned and every time I woke up, my mind was trying to work out the significance of “The Little People.” Murakami places this signifiers in the book but gives them almost no signification—are they symbols, allegory, literal, what?? One whole night every hour or so I would wake up and think, “What if they are us, the audience?”

What if I had lived my whole life without reading this novel?

I am on now to another dystopian work, Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. This was a recent recommendation by my sis-in-love’s mom Lorraine, and I am about 20% in. Great recommendation. It is more than up to the task of following 1Q84.

Katie, Eric, and I are also reading a long nonfiction science and history work about plagues. So far we’ve covered the Black Death and smallpox and have moved on to HIV/AIDS. We keep it cheery over here, folks!

No, seriously, in light of what’s been happening with the resurgence of the measles and the anti-vax movement, I want my children to have a historically and scientifically accurate understanding of the need for vaccination and social health measures. What I have found is that the reasons for not vaccinating (outside of the debunked autism link) in the 18th century are the same as now. While science and modernity has moved forward, as it should, contingents of people have remained stuck in 18th century modes of thinking. The primary source excerpts are astounding in this respect—how little things have changed, for some.

The relevant thing to know about this book, too, is that it isn’t some propaganda piece: it was written in 1995, before the new wave anti-vax movement even gained steam. It is just a pretty straightforward, dyed-in-the-wool historical and scientific text laying out some information. To read it in 2014 has been eye-opening and only reaffirms my current thoughts about how we should handle vaccinations in the future. Would we like to see humanity survive, or not? Or is it all about the individual, even if it means undoing all the rest of us? How far do we let fear run before we take steps as collective citizens of humanity to act in the best interests of our species?

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The kiddos and I also took a long hike in The Meadow this morning before lunch. We pretended it was an arena from The Hunger Games and that we were all from District 12 and planning to thwart the government and not play their games of fear. Katie was, of course, Katniss. We discovered how much fun it was to pretend The Meadow is an arena, by the way. I have a feeling this will be a new pastime for us.

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At the start of the week, Monday, we got a bit of kayaking done. Great cross-training, but I did miss my pool laps. On Mondays I can swim for an hour…and it is a place to enter the void, the meditation zone. But here, we did see Katie’s swan friends over by Harbor Island, and that was exciting.

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On Friday, Katie turned in her writing competition narrative. She wrote about a girl who discovered a secret message at Monticello and had to decipher it.

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“In this world, there is no absolute good, no absolute evil,” the man said. “Good and evil are not fixed, stable entities, but are continually trading places. A good may be transformed into an evil in the next second. And vice versa. Such was the way of the world that Dostoevsky depicted in The Brothers Karamazov. The most important thing is to maintain the balance between the constantly moving good and evil. If you lean too much in either direction, it becomes difficult to maintain actual morals. Indeed, balance itself is the good.”

-Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

“I move, therefore I am.”  (1Q84)

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